SBD/May 20, 2011/Leagues and Governing Bodies

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  • NFL Lockout Watch, Day 70: League Asks For Delay In Filing Antitrust Reply

    The NFL asked a federal court in Minnesota Thursday to allow it to delay filing its reply to the antitrust lawsuit pending against the league until July 6 instead of Monday. However, the league disclosed in papers filed at the court Thursday that the counsel for the 10 players suing the league opposes the move. The league argues because the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals will likely rule by early July on whether to overturn the Minnesota court’s decision enjoining the lockout, that decision will affect the reply, and may even cause the league to file a motion to dismiss. The 8th Circuit made clear in granting the stay to the NFL of the lower court’s ruling that it would likely overturn it, and strongly suggested that the dispute was a labor one not subject to antitrust laws. The players, facing the setback in not lifting the lockout, appear set on pursuing the core antitrust case, which seeks to declare the lockout and most free agency restrictions illegal. So the players would not want any delay in that process. The counsel for retired players suing the NFL, whose case was folded into the active players’ one, did not object to the date shift and the response to their suit is now July 6. Presumably the Minnesota court will have to decide Friday whether the league can delay its filing. The players' reply to the league’s contention the lockout should not be lifted by the courts is due today at the 8th Circuit (Daniel Kaplan, SportsBusiness Journal).

    MARA WRITES ESSAY: NFL Giants President & CEO John Mara posted an essay about the state of the lockout Thursday on NFL.com and Giants.com. Mara wrote, "We need to resolve our differences with the players at the bargaining table, start the 2011 season on time, and set a positive course for the future of our great game. There was no reason for the situation to come to this." He noted the NFL's "business model needs to be fixed. Of that, there is no doubt. ... Players have readily acknowledged they 'got a great deal.' Then the economy went south, adding to the problem. A fair adjustment must be negotiated in a new CBA." Mara was part of the federal mediation in DC prior to the lockout beginning and noted the sides "made progress." Mara: "We closed the gap on economics, offering to commit almost $20 billion to player costs over the next four years with a 14 percent increase from 2011 to 2014. We addressed other important player concerns in our March 11 offer. ... Instead, the NFL Players Association walked away from mediation. It put a litigation strategy in play." He added, "The solution lies at the bargaining table. Everyone should realize what is at stake, especially in this economy. Right now, fans are caught in the middle listening to rhetoric and legalese they don't want to hear. That is why, as ownership and players, we must recognize our shared responsibility as stewards of the game to compromise and reach a fair agreement" (GIANTS.com, 5/19). In N.Y., Gary Myers writes a lot of Mara's essay "repeated some of the familiar themes the owners have been putting forth" since the lockout began (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 5/20). ESPN.com's Dan Graziano noted the league is "smart to put Mara out front on this." Graziano: "He's universally liked and respected. So when he's the one spouting the party line, people might be inclined to think that's not what they're getting" (ESPN.com, 5/19).

    Johnson hopes judges' ruling will help
    speed up negotiations on new CBA
    HOPEFUL RULING LEADS TO SOMETHING: In Newark, Jenny Vrentas reported Jets Owner Woody Johnson hopes the league's win in the 8th Circuit for the lockout to continue "will grease negotiations" for a new CBA. Johnson said, "Hopefully this will get us back to the negotiating table faster. The sooner we can get back and actually talk to the players. I miss the players. I like talking to them. So let's get a deal done." He added, "We want to get a deal done, but we're not going to get a deal done sitting in court somewhere" (Newark STAR-LEDGER, 5/19). Meanwhile, PRO FOOTBALL TALK's Mike Florio wrote the NFL "finally seems to be pushing a dollars-over-decimals message to the players." NFL Exec VP/Labor & General Counsel Jeff Pash Thursday on Sirius XM Radio said, "When you're doing your budget and paying your bills and things like that, you're not looking at a percentage, you're looking at how many dollars you have in your checking account." Florio noted the league is "aggressively pointing" that the players "receive 50 percent, and it's basically profit." Owners also receive 50% and "from it they pay all other costs associated with running a football team." Florio: "As these other costs grow, the amount that represents profit shrinks, in time dramatically" (PROFOOTBALLTALK.com, 5/19).

    JUST COME CLEAN: NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell participated in separate conference calls with Steelers and Lions season-ticket holders Thursday, saying on the Steelers call, "We can't continue to have the rising costs of operating the league and shifting it to our fans." In Pittsburgh, Ron Cook asks, "Does Goodell really think the fans are idiots?" Cook: "I have nothing against greed. I don't think anyone does. ... But couldn't Goodell at least be honest about it? Couldn't he have said the owners are tired of the cost of the players' salaries and benefits eating away at their enormous profits?" (PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE, 5/20).

    OUT OF SIGHT, OUT OF MIND? FOXSPORTS.com's Jason Whitlock wrote, "I get lockout hysteria. I just don't agree with it." The NFL "isn't too big to fail," and it may in fact "be a good thing if the NFL suffered a comeuppance, a retreat to a more appropriate place in the American fabric." Whitlock: "I can make do without it. And so can everyone else. We survived MLB, NBA and NHL work stoppages" (FOXSPORTS.com, 5/19).

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  • FIFA Investigation Could Lead To Re-Vote On '22 World Cup After Corruption Allegations

    Blatter says FIFA could rerun '22 World Cup vote following corruption probe

    FIFA President Sepp Blatter “made the startling disclosure” on Thursday that he “could not rule out a rerun of the voting for the right to host the 2022 World Cup finals which was controversially won by” Qatar in December, according to Sam Wallace of the London INDEPENDENT. Blatter said that “a FIFA inquiry into claims made” by The London Times that “there was corruption in the vote could lead to the FIFA executive committee voting again.” The re-vote “would represent the biggest U-turn in the governing body's history.” Blatter “knows that any move to go back on the decision would cause huge ructions” within the soccer world. While he “did not say what he thought the likely outcome of FIFA’s investigation would be, he refused to put any limit on the measures they could take if they uncovered wrongdoing.” Blatter said that “the notion that the 2022 vote would be reheld was ‘alarming’ but conceded it was one that had a groundswell of popular support and was ‘circulating around the world’" (London TELEGRAPH, 5/20). The FINANCIAL TIMES’ Roger Blitz reports FIFA will “interview a whistleblower” after claims by the London Times that Qatar paid two members of the governing body's exec committee “for their support of the Gulf state’s successful bid to stage” the ‘22 World Cup. Blatter on Thursday said that the newspaper “had agreed to present the individual in person to a meeting at FIFA headquarters.” Blatter: “We will have a discussion, an investigation of this” (FINANCIAL TIMES, 5/20).
     
    SITTING THIS ONE OUT: The GUARDIAN’s Owen Gibson reports England’s Football Association “will register a protest by abstaining in the forthcoming FIFA presidential election.” Blatter called the decision "strange." FA Chair David Bernstein said "a well-reported range of issues both recent and current" had made it "difficult" to back either Blatter or Asian Football Confederation President Mohamed bin Hammam. Gibson writes Blatter “appears increasingly assured of victory” in the June 1 vote “after receiving the public backing of the European, South American, Oceania and African confederations” (GUARDIAN, 5/20).

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  • League Notes

    Writer feels retaining Patrick next season is imperative to IndyCar

    Danica Patrick's contract with Izod IndyCar Series team Andretti Autosport expires after this year, and in Indianapolis, Bob Kravitz writes the series "absolutely, positively, imperatively needs to keep Patrick." Kravitz: "On a list of a thousand things IndyCar CEO Randy Bernard needs to do in the coming years, finding a way to retain Patrick for his series ... should be top priority." She is the only driver "who can move the needle" in the series, and IndyCar "needs her far more than NASCAR needs her." Kravitz: "And if this is all about winning and not just money and marketing, she needs IndyCar far more than she needs NASCAR" (INDIANAPOLIS STAR, 5/20).

    LOOKING FOR THE NEXT STAR: In S.F., Ron Kroichick wrote the PGA Tour "needs marketable players to step forward -- preferably American players, because the tour targets a U.S. audience." Rickie Fowler is "exactly what the game needs to connect to the next generation of fans." The 22-year-old is "on the fast track to stardom and oh-so-cool in many ways" (S.F. CHRONICLE, 5/19). Golf Channel's Erik Kuselias said, "Golf was bigger when they had Tiger Woods. The LPGA was bigger when they had Annika Sorenstam. In an individual sport, you need stories and dominance and people to root for or against." Kuselias: "If you're trying to grow the LPGA and you're trying to grow the PGA Tour, you want someone to step up that people can embrace" ("Morning Drive," Golf Channel, 5/18).

    STANDING OUT FROM THE CROWD: In New Jersey, Tara Sullivan wrote LPGA member Paula Creamer is "more than just the present of her sport." Creamer "can be its future. And this game needs a brighter future." The LPGA is "searching for new headline stars," and Creamer is "one in a handful of young American golfers with the potential to be the next breakout one." She is an "outstanding golfer with an engaging personality" (Bergen RECORD, 5/19).

    BACK TO A FAMILIAR PLACE: In Montreal, Dave Deibert reports UFC is "eyeing a return" to Montreal just a couple weeks after "drawing more than 55,000 fans to its debut in Toronto." UFC Dir of Canadian Operations Tom Wright Wednesday said that the organization "is targeting early December for its fifth visit to the Bell Centre." Deibert notes outside of Las Vegas, Montreal "has become UFC's most consistent market" (Montreal GAZETTE, 5/20).

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